November 2023

ANA Catering Service will bring a first-class touch to the FCCJ’s food & beverage scene

Executive Chef Koji Otake - Photo: Julio Shiiki

With a gentle smile and a steely eye for fine detail in his cuisine, veteran Executive Chef Koji Otake took the helm of the FCCJ bar and fine dining services in October. “It is a great honor for me to be able to offer hospitality in the heart of Tokyo during my long career,” the 54-year-old said in an interview with the Number 1 Shimbun.

The FCCJ represents an ambitious initiative for ANA Catering Service (ANAC), whose focus is on the mainstream airline food service business. Otake’s 36-year career includes a stint at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (formerly the ANA Hotel) where he honed his culinary skills. “I was in charge of teppanyaki (food cooked over a hotplate in front of the customer) at the hotel,” he said, adding that his work included developing menus comprising a fusion of Japanese and Western cooking.

Executive Chef Koji Otake - Photo: Julio Shiiki

“The responsibility of catering to the palates of guests from a variety of countries broadened my horizons and had a significant impact in my career,” Otake said.  “I hope to bring the unique pairing of East and West to the FCCJ.”

The inclusion of ANAC’s approach in the FCCJ’s F&B services comes with an elegance and professionalism that is in keeping with the company's commitment to satisfying its clients. The move involved months of careful preparation, with endless meetings with FCCJ staff and management. “Our goal focused on understanding the FCCJ`s journalism culture and diverse membership,” Naohiro Funamizu, ANAC’s general manager. “Details are important, and the process continues to be a learning experience.”

From left: General Manager Naohiro Funamizu, Executive Chef Koji Otake and Floor Manager Atsushi Kagaya - Photo: Julio Shiiki

ANAC’s management is keen to observe FCCJ traditions while addressing business issues such as new prices and menus. For example, ANAC has retained current FCCJ bar staff – including the much-loved Hanif and Kyoko Adachi, whose long years at the FCCJ means they are well versed in members’ personal tastes.

Moreover, ANAC will continue serving FCCJ most popular dishes, while menus will change monthly and special events will be added. The Correspondents’ Lunch will still be priced at ¥1,300 but will look more attractive with the addition of ANAC-style garnishes and sauces. Otake said he had fallen in love with the FCCJ’s famous apple pie – a staple at the club for decades that is sorely missed. “I am definitely looking at how to revive that awesome dessert,” he said. 

From left: Today's Fish Dish with Chef's Special Sauce; Steamed Mussels with White Wine - Photo: FCCJ
Left to right: Smoked Salmon Trout; Press Club Salad; Fried Chicken Basket - Photo: FCCJ

On the beverage front, ANAC has been listening to requests by a team of FCCJ members, particularly when it comes to favourites among veteran journalists. They include a Vermouth-based martini – served with two olives - popular with long-time member Bradley Martin. The tipple will be part of the club’s expanded cocktail menu.

From November, Otake is planning to introduce a high-end afternoon tea for two that will include a stunning selection of cakes, pastries and sandwiches. With a nod to the club’s origins, the menu will also bringing Japanese aesthetics to the FCCJ table, including seasonal ingredients such as the country’s famous chestnuts this fall. The tea service will change during the year to offer attractive seasonal delicacies in keeping with the special ANAC brand, and be priced at ¥5,000 per person. 

In addition, the fine dining experience at the Pen & Quill will be revamped to include prestigious wines selected by ANAC in-house sommeliers and ANAC chefs who will become part of the new team.

Funamizu said the approach to hospitality would resemble that of a first-class ANA experience. “I am proud to serve at the FCCJ, and we welcome members and their guests wholeheartedly,” he said.

Suvendrini Kakuchi is Tokyo correspondent for University World News in the UK.